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Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive Teaching

Being responsive to the diverse ways of knowing and learning that students have is one of the most challenging tasks of college teaching. Rewards are gratifying when you can find ways to connect with a variety of students, including veterans, older students, international students, and students from a multiplicity of cultures and sexual orientations. The first step in moving toward inclusive teaching is to realize that few students will have the learning style that you have. You cannot rely on your experiences as an undergraduate student to guide all of your decisions about teaching. The second step is to know that small adjustments can have positive impacts in helping students feel welcome and comfortable.

Diverse ways of knowing and learning

Years of research have shown that people really do diverge in their preferred ways of learning. Some learn best through text; others rely on visual, audio, or hands-on approaches. Some gravitate toward theoretical thinking before application;others need to start with practical applications. Accessibility to digital resources has made inclusive teaching far easier to accomplish. Having multiple teaching strategies will not only help those students with ingrained

practice, but will introduce for them novel techniques that they may not have tried. Research also shows that cultures play as significant a role as individual preference in shaping how people learn. Some cultures, for instance, privilege inductive ways of knowing and learning. Students from those cultures may struggle in the American university system that privileges deductive reasoning. If you have international students in your classroom, be alert to signs of discomfort with American classroom etiquette. You can help them to become comfortable, and their subsequent willingness to participate in class will help to broaden all of your students’ learning.


Some disciplines are still struggling to establish classroom, lab, and workplace conditions that are equally welcoming to all genders. The term “chilly classroom” was originally coined to describe an environment in math and science classes that felt forbidding to females. Other disciplines feel chilly to males. Talk with fellow GAs and faculty members in your discipline to brainstorm ways to encourage those who might feel underprivileged or second-class because of their gender.

Globalizing learning

Worldwide participation in the development of disciplinary advances is often invisible to students, especially students in introductory classes. If you have the opportunity to develop your own visual, audio, and textual examples in your teaching, search for possibilities from across the globe or from minority cultural and ethnic groups. Skype and other communication software can be used effectively to include students and experts from anywhere in the world.Ask students for suggestions of YouTube and other popular audio or video examples to illustrate concepts in your class.


Recommended reading:William M. Timpson, Silvia Sara Canetto, Evelinn A. Borrayo and Raymond Yang, eds., Teaching Diversity: Challenges and Complexities, Identities and Integrity. Atwood Publishing, 2003.

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